Minimum Wage: WWTJD (What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?)


(Dennis Hof) – I’m no constitutional scholar, but do you know who is?  Thomas Jefferson.  After all, he helped James Madison and the other Founding Fathers write it.

It is perhaps the most remarkable document on the philosophy of government in the history of mankind and clearly established the authorized powers of Congress, including the authority to coin money, collect taxes, regulate trade with foreign nations and between the states, establish immigration rules, provide for an army and navy, declare war, issue patents and establish post offices.

But for some reason I cannot find the authority for Congress to tell a private employer how much he must pay a voluntary worker for his services.  Nor can I find the authority to force an employer to provide his employees health insurance, paid time off, or a private room for moms to breast-feed.

It’s just not there.

That’s probably because of the general, overall belief of our Founders, as expressed by Mr. Jefferson, that…

“A wise and frugal government shall restrain men from injuring one another but shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.”

Wages and benefits are pursuits rightly to be decided by a willing employer and a willing employee, not the government.  At least, not a “wise and frugal government.”  Dictatorships are another thing altogether.

But, some will argue, any constitutional prohibition on the government setting a minimum wage only applies to Congress, not the Nevada Legislature.  I’d argue otherwise, based on Article 1, Section 1 of the Nevada Constitution which very clearly states…

“All men are by Nature free and equal and have certain inalienable rights among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty.”

Men and women are not free to enjoy liberty when the government forces a private employer to pay a burger-flipper $15 an hour.  It’s simply not a proper role for a wise and frugal government – especially since the government isn’t paying the mandated wages.

It’s very easy for politicians to spend other people’s money.  It’s also dead wrong in cases such as this.

Of course, others will argue that “the people” granted the Nevada Legislature the power to compel a minimum wage when they passed such an amendment to the Nevada Constitution in 2006

But as Assemblyman Jim Wheeler learned a couple years ago – after he declared that he’d vote to bring back slavery if that’s what the people of his district wanted – that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s constitutional, let alone right.

Mandating a minimum wage denies citizens their inalienable liberty guaranteed in Article 1, Section 1 of the Nevada Constitution and probably should be challenged in court.  It’s the kind of abuse by “the people” we were warned about with this quote…

“A democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.”

A bill raising the minimum wage in Nevada to $15/hour has been proposed by freshman Assemblyman William McCurdy II (D-Las Vegas), a UNLV college student who has never signed the front of a paycheck.  It’s very easy for him to spend someone else’s money.  But it’s not right.  And I’d argue it’s not constitutional.

And I’m pretty sure Thomas Jefferson would agree.

Mr. Hof is a successful Nevada businessman, author, philanthropist, star of an award-winning reality TV series on HBO and president of the Home of Freedom PAC.  He can be reached at